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Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip

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Overview


On June 19, 1953, Harry Truman got up early, packed the trunk of his Chrysler New Yorker, and did something no other former president has done before or since: he hit the road. No Secret Service protection. No traveling press. Just Harry and his childhood sweetheart Bess, off to visit old friends, take in a Broadway play, celebrate their wedding anniversary in the Big Apple, and blow a bit of the money he’d just received to write his memoirs. ...
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Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip

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Overview


On June 19, 1953, Harry Truman got up early, packed the trunk of his Chrysler New Yorker, and did something no other former president has done before or since: he hit the road. No Secret Service protection. No traveling press. Just Harry and his childhood sweetheart Bess, off to visit old friends, take in a Broadway play, celebrate their wedding anniversary in the Big Apple, and blow a bit of the money he’d just received to write his memoirs. Hopefully incognito.
 
In this lively history, author Matthew Algeo meticulously details how Truman’s plan to blend in went wonderfully awry. Fellow diners, bellhops, cabbies, squealing teenagers at a Future Homemakers of America convention, and one very by-the-book Pennsylvania state trooper--all unknowingly conspired to blow his cover. Algeo revisits the Trumans’ route, staying at the same hotels and eating at the same diners, and takes readers on brief detours into topics such as the postwar American auto industry, McCarthyism, the nation’s highway system, and the decline of Main Street America. By the end of the 2,500-mile journey, you will have a new and heartfelt appreciation for America’s last citizen-president.
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Editorial Reviews

Christopher Buckley
The title "Excellent Adventure" probably ought to be retired at this point, but not quite yet, for Matthew Algeo has given us just that: an extremely excellent adventure by ex-President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess…It's hard not to read this utterly likable if occasionally overwrought book without feeling a tad nostalgic for the days when American automobiles set the gold standard, gas cost 27 cents a gallon, and the best restaurant in town might be found at the airport.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Public radio reporter Algeo (Last Team Standing) brings the 1950s into focus with a fascinating reconstruction of Harry and Bess Truman's postpresidential 2,500-mile road trip. "I like to take trips-any kind of trip," Truman wrote. "They are about the only recreation I have besides reading." Between 2006 and 2008, Algeo retraced their journey with stopovers at some of the same diners and hotels the couple visited. When Truman left the White House in 1953, he returned to Independence, Mo., rejecting lucrative offers he felt would "commercialize" the presidency. His only income was a small army pension. Acquiring a 1953 Chrysler, the Trumans set out with no fanfare and a curious notion of "traveling incognito." However, reporters and newsreel cameras soon turned their vehicular vacation into an ongoing media event. The book benefits from extensive research through oral history interviews and papers at the Harry S. Truman Library, and Algeo's own interviews with eyewitnesses. With deliberate detours, this book is a portal into the past with layers of details providing unusual authenticity and a portrait of the president as an ordinary man. 20 b&w photos, 1 map. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Wall Street Journal

An engaging account . . . well-researched.

Washington Times

Resonates Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man—brassy, bright, energetic, brief and declaratively American.

Riverfront Times

Charming and engrossing.

Jackson Free Press

Algeo has done a first-rate job of piecing together the trip...a fascinating reading experience.

Booklist Online

Enlivened by Algeo's endeavors to see the places where Truman stopped, this is an engaging historical sidebar.

Library Journal

In the summer of 1953, back in Missouri after leaving the White House six months before, Harry and Bess Truman loaded up their new Chrysler and headed out, like thousands of their fellow citizens, on a summer vacation. Public radio reporter Algeo chronicles this unlikely excursion in great and wonderful detail. The Trumans drove to Washington, DC, to visit old friends and then on to New York to visit their daughter, Margaret. Along the way they caused a sensation at almost every diner and filling station at which they stopped. In addition to a detailed itinerary, Algeo, who retraced the Trumans' route, also provides many interesting side trips, including both press and government reactions and interviews with folks who'd met the Trumans on the trip. It was still a time when former Presidents received no pension or Secret Service protection, when there were no interstate highways or big chain motels, and travel was a much more intimate and haphazard affair. This enchanting glimpse into a much simpler age that is all but gone should appeal to anyone interested in the Fifties, Harry Truman, or unusual travel tales. Recommended for public libraries and undergraduate collections.
—Dan Forrest

From the Publisher

"With deliberate detours, this book is a portal into the past with layers of details providing unusual authenticity and a portrait of the president as an ordinary man."  —Publishers Weekly

"Matthew Algeo recalls [my grandparents'] memorable trip beautifully and with the sense of humor it deserves."  —Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry S. Truman

"Enlivened by Algeo"s endeavors to see the places where Truman stopped, this is an engaging historical sidebar."  — Booklist Online

"An engaging account . . . Well-researched."  —Wall Street Journal

"Combines . . . history with the ever-popular road book, researching, duplicating, and reporting in detail on the last trip the Trumans took, driving their new Chrysler to Washington, and back to Independence."  —Max J. Skidmore, author, After the White House: Former Presidents as Private Citizens

"Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure resonates Aaron Copeland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man'—brassy, bright, energetic, brief and declaratively American."  —Washington Times

"Algeo has done a first-rate job of piecing together the trip . . . a fascinating reading experience." —Jackson Free Press

"Charming and engrossing."  —Riverfront Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569767078
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 115,372
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Algeo

Matthew Algeo is a public radio reporter. His first book, Last Team Standing: How the Steelers and the Eagles—"The Steagles"—Saved Pro Football During World War II, won the 2006 Nelson Ross Award for best pro football historiography. For more information, visit www.trumanroadtrip.com.
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Table of Contents

Preface 1

1 Washington, D.C., Inauguration Day, 1953 5

2 Independence, Missouri, Winter and Spring, 1953 19

3 Hannibal, Missouri, June 19, 1953 39

4 Decatur, Illinois, June 19-20, 1953 57

5 Indianapolis, Indiana, June 20, 1953 75

6 Wheeling, West Virginia, June 20-21, 1953 85

7 Frostburg, Maryland, June 21, 1953 99

8 Washington, D.C., June 21-26, 1953 111

9 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 26-27, 1953 133

10 New York, New York, June 27-July 5, 1953 141

11 Pennsylvania (or, Abducted), July 5-6, 1953 165

12 Columbus, Ohio, July 6-7, 1953 181

13 Richmond, Indiana, July 7, 1953 193

14 Indianapolis, Indiana, July 7-8, 1953 203

15 St. Louis, Missouri, July 8, 1953 211

Epilogue 217

Postscript 227

Afterword 233

Acknowledgments 239

Sources 241

Bibliography 245

Index 257

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 24, 2012

    America - what a great country!

    What a pleasant and entertaining story! I had recently read Robert Clara’s excellent account of FDR’s Funeral Train, which provided amazing insight into the 1944 transition to the Truman administration. Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure turned out to be an equally well researched and resourced portrayal of a trip our 33rd President and his bride made six months after leaving office. It provides a delightful portrayal of America in the 50s, perspective on the politics of the time, and a particularly wonderful profile of Harry and Bess Truman as human beings. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of all is the simplicity in which they conducted their lives after the White House. How different from former Presidents and First Ladies since then. Matthew Algeo did not sit in a library to research this story. He re-traced every mile that still survives, slept in every hotel still in business no matter how dilapidated, and visited most every home of friends where the Trumans stopped along the way. And what a wonderful post script to the story at the end…you’ll have to read it to find out what it is. Even if you’re not a Harry Truman fan, if you lived in the 50s this will bring back fond memories of a simpler time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    Very Enjoyable

    I really liked this book as it showed how a great man can be an average man. Following his presidency, Truman attempts to go back to civilian life by taking a car trip. The author travels the same roads and visits the same places. The local history is wonderful, especially for me as I grew up near Washington, PA, one of the overnight stops on Truman's travels.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Fun book

    This is a charming book about a fun and interesting president and his beautiful relationship with his wife.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an accurate, amusing and well written book about a man and the times he represented. A touching story about the last President of his kind. You will love this book if you are a child of the fifties!

    This is an amusing and touching story about President Truman's life after the White House and the times he lived in. If you grew up during that time, this book will have your memories flooding back as you recall the good and the bad of the fifties. Harry Truman and his family are presented in this book as most people of that time will remember them: good people who served their country well and then returned to "ordinary" life. Read this book no matter your age. You won't regret it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    Go for a ride with the Trumans.

    A heartwarming, touching vacation with the Trumans after his presidency. A very comfortable read and rewarding to revisit a time and people who believed in integrity, character and enriching activities which helped create substance and lasting relationships.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

    Harry was the last president to be a humble man

    Very interesting story that tells much about Harry as a man. Born and raised into humble beginnings, he fulfilled the American dream of acheivement.

    I acknowledge the difficulties he experienced in his term and how he rose to strength in making the difficult choices that were so necessary to the good of the country. I find it difficult, however, to overlook his highly partisan approach towards those he disagreed with.

    History has, rightly, been kind to him though he left office with an abismal approval rating. Had he not agreed to use the A bomb, who knows how much further damage the war would have created. It is a shame that so many of our current loudmouths do not both to study history to understand its nessessity and significance.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2012

    Cgdg

    Gfhd

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2012

    A good sample of our history.

    It was a fun book to read and to learn about one of our Presidents. I would recommend this book to all who would like to know about history. I learned a few things that I did not know and it was pleasant reading.

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  • Posted July 30, 2011

    More Harry Less Background

    This book was pretty thin to start and then half of it focused on the background of the places they visited much of which was not particularly new information. I would have liked more informaations on the Trumans.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful read!

    Charming account of a President who did not sell his soul after he left office!

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    Posted December 4, 2009

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